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If You Like Donuts, Take A Look At The New Education Policy, 2020!

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The New Education Policy (2020) is like a donut—it has a layer of ‘eclectic’ words on the outside, but it is empty on the inside.

Launched on July 29, 2020, by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, it aims to ‘modernize’ primary and higher education in India, but not necessarily to better it. It would be wrong to not throw light on some of its positive aspects, like the extending free education to the age of 18, and supplementary funds for women’s education.

Unfortunately, the rest of the policy is a walking example of ‘majority privilege’ and it worsens with the current socio-economic backdrop of India. A deeper assessment of the NEP reveals it to be a classist, casteist, and discriminatory policy, perpetuating damage to our fundamental right to education.

Representational image.

Let’s start with the issue of the usage of regional languages till class 5. The lack of English education among students of the marginalised sections would open doors to further discrimination in employment opportunities.

Some international companies are known for their prejudiced behaviour towards people from Dalit communities. And, with the lack of grasp over English they might not even have a workplace, to begin with.

On the other hand, it is obvious that ‘renowned’ schools would never give up on English, and thus, the income gap would only become more pronounced.

This ‘deficiency’ of English learning would also be detrimental to students from marginalised communities, including economically disadvantaged groups, and even LGBTQ groups. They constitute one of the most victimized communities in India, especially in workplaces where they have to navigate multiple layers of brutality. The language imposition would only catapult their suppression to newer heights.

Now coming to the issue of e-learning, as mentioned in the policy. With the start of online teaching due to COVID-19, there have been numerous instances of lower-income group students missing out classes due to a lack of technological infrastructure. With around 46% of the population losing out on internet connectivity, the introduction of e-learning in the school curriculum shows the myopic view of the incumbent. Thus, the gap increases more and more.

Next is the issue of schools providing vocational training for students. This may look like a window for those students who are not very academically inclined, but unfortunately, the circumstances of this training are seemingly exploitative. Not learning English would automatically out students of disadvantaged class opting white-collar jobs at a loss. Thus, they might have to fall back on this vocational and polytechnic training to make ends meet.

Once again, the caste system deepens its roots with birth-determining professions. LGBTQ persons, from lower-income families, would face a similar deadlock, ultimately resulting in further marginalisation of the already marginalised.

Mainstreaming Sanskrit is another clause in the new education system. Sanskrit is considered the mother of all languages, but the document neither guides us on how to update the language for modern needs, nor does it recognize the lack of availability of teachers to teach Sanskrit as a mainstream subject. Not to mention the communal undercurrents that Sanskrit has been attributed by the right-wing nationalists of the country, it might further be projected inside or outside classrooms.

Girl students in a class sit facing a teacher who is writing on the backboard
Representational image.

In the New Education Policy, there is no emphasis on the training of children with disabilities and e-learning which has now been integrated into school curriculums. The concept of continuous examination also hasn’t been very inclusive as the policy fails to reflect on the use of scribes by students with disabilities. Under the new system, teachers also need adequate training to help students with disabilities, which the education policy once again fails to elaborate on.

Two of the most heavily debated issues in the NEP 2020 are the internship provisions and the setting up of foreign universities in India. The NEP talks about unpaid internships from class 6 in local businesses. Sadly, this can only benefit corporate interests because it extracts free/cheap labour from students and exploits the marginalised.

Hence, words like “skill” do not hash out the fact that unpaid internships only allow the moneyed to move forward and become more privileged than the ones who need to be paid to afford necessities. It also doesn’t say that the NEP perpetuates this trend by turning students into ‘servitors’.

Coming to the subject of setting up of overseas universities and colleges in India, the NEP neither namedrops any of these universities nor does it elaborate on the fee structure these universities would have.

Now, as we know from experience that some Indian private colleges are extremely expensive, which is why many students opt for student loans. Considering this, it can be assumed that these foreign institutions might have a ‘sky-rocketing’ fee structure. Thus, it goes without saying that students from marginalised communities would not only able to afford them, they wouldn’t even have any kind of representation as well because there will probably be no reservation, which is a constitutional right.

Representational image.

The flexibility offered in classes 11 and 12 have been rejoiced by many, and rightly so. But, the concept of common entrance examinations will perpetuate the lack of specialisation, which happens to be one of the reasons for opting higher education in the first place.

The cancellation of M.Phil, the reduced tenure for Masters degrees, and the lack of independent research goes on to prove that NEP 2020 pushes for an unscientific and a reduced academic agenda. Students will be trained to be semi-skilled ‘slaves’ for big corporates rather then being encouraged to develop scientific and rational temperament.

As pointed out by Communist Party of India(Marxist) or CPI(M), the Draft New Education Policy (DNEP) 2019 transgressed the federal system of the country by robbing the states of their right to keep education under their own wing in order to cater to its regional interests, as correctly pointed by the

In conclusion, I feel the New Education Policy is a visionless, regressive attempt at westernising Indian education at the cost of notorious attacks on the minorities of the country.

It does nothing to abolish the systematic and structural exploitation of the so-called ‘lower’ class and instead simply serves as a smokescreen to make the education and economic system a privilege. One where the members of the working class are meant to be exploited for cheap labour with no chance of ‘social mobility’.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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